Audi has unveiled an evolved version of its RS Q e-tron Dakar Rally racer, which now carries the E2 suffix that was originally used on its second-gen Audi Quattro Group B rally cars in the 1980s.
Despite getting off to a rocky start, Audi won four stages in its debut Dakar Rally outing earlier this year. With Stephane Peterhansel winning the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the RS Q e-tron made history as the first electrified car to win a cross country rally. The latest updates mainly focus on the bodywork, aimed at reducing weight, improving efficiency and aerodynamics.
- Body reworked to reduce weight
- Rally debut in Morocco on October 1-6
Weight saving, better efficiency
The RS Q e-tron E2 continues with its unique powertrain set-up, with three electric motors (one powering each axle and one generator). A DTM-sourced 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine acts as an energy converter that charges the battery on the go – vital to complete the long Dakar rally stages. All of this means the RS Q e-tron was overweight by design, making weight reduction a key area of focus for its latest evolution.
The new T1U regulations have increased minimum weight from 2,000kg to 2,100kg. But Audi has adopted a number of weight-saving measures by redesigning the body. In fact, Axel Löffler, chief designer of the RS Q e-tron says it “does not adopt a single body part from its predecessor”. It’s now widest at the cockpit and tapers towards both ends, which Audi says is reminiscent of the shape of a boat’s hull.
It’s also done away with the ‘elephant foot’ fenders between the front wheels and door. Thanks to this and the use of lighter materials wherever possible, Audi claims it has shaved off “dozens of kilos”.
All the changes have also helped further optimise airflow, while also lowering the car’s centre of gravity. Audi says it has reduced the overall aerodynamic drag by “around 15 percent”. Top speed remains limited to 170kph, but the improved air flow will make the electrified racer even more efficient than more.
“Last year we were a bit too heavy. This year, the performance improvement comes out of a clear and significant loss of weight, a lower centre of gravity and the reduction of drag, in combination with enhanced power control,” says Rolf Michl, managing director of Audi Sport.
Audi had its fair share of reliability gremlins in the 2022 Dakar Rally. Surprisingly though, none of these came from the electric drivetrain. But the manufacturer is still chasing any gains that can be made, based on its learnings.
For example, Audi noted short-term surpluses of power while jumping or driving over uneven terrain. “We could have made it easy on ourselves and set our threshold several kilowatts lower, but that would have meant performance disadvantages. Instead, we put a lot of fine-tuning into the power controllers,” explains Florian Semlinger, development engineer for embedded software, application and test bench. The software has been remapped with two individual limits – one for each motor.
Controls of the servo pump, air conditioning and fans have also been further optimised to save more energy during stages.
The cockpit is now wider to meet the new regulations. But Audi has also changed the layout of the displays and controls. The driver and co-driver will now be able to select from four system areas (Stage, Road, Error and Settings) using a rotary switch. Only the functions necessary for each situation show up when that system area is selected.
The crew will also be able to work more easily after a puncture, thanks to removable body components that replace the previous bulky covers for the spare wheels in the flanks. Audi says the new 10-spoke rims from Rotiform are much easier to handle as well.
Audi RS Q e-tron E2 rally debut
Audi continues with its all-star driver ensemble of Carlos Sainz, Stéphane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekström. After completing initial testing, the new RS Q e-tron E2 will make its competitive debut in the Rally du Maroc from October 1-6.